Govt is heading towards appointing Zafar-ul-Haq Hijazi as chairman SECP but rules bar him from holding this post as he has already served two terms as commissioner, it is reliably learnt.For this purpose the government has re-advertised the vacancy in the national dailies on March 23, 2014.It has been learnt that the commission constituted for the appointment of heads of the state-run enterprises reportedly had interviewed seven short-listed candidates for the slot and sent their profiles with comments. However, instead of forwarding the process further, the government withdrew this responsibility from the commission through a notification issued on March 7.
Rana Asad Amin, advisor to the ministry of finance, when contacted, said, “The notification of appointment of the commissioner/chairman SECP through the commission has been withdrawn to ensure transparency in the appointment process. The government has already withdrawn such notifications of almost 30 state-run enterprises and companies. The government has decided to make the appointments according to the rules that are already prescribed in the Act of the SECP and the CCP”.
“In order to ensure transparency in the process of appointment of chairman SECP the government would re-advertise the position after which suitable and competent persons would be appointed as heads of these institutions,” he commented.
Well-placed official sources informed this correspondent that the process for hiring of chairman/commissioner SECP is being revised only to adjust Mr. Zafar Hijazi, who was not short-listed by the commission because he did not qualify for the position after completing two terms as commissioner SECP.
It is said that Zafar Hijazi is friend of an important personality and worked with him previously. Sources close to the government said Hijazi is a competent person and has vast relevant experience. He is also a man of integrity, they said.
Hijazi was appointed as commissioner SECP in 1999. He then served two consecutive terms as commissioner SECP and his second term ended in 2004. During the last days of his second term, Mr Hijazi also obtained a legal opinion from the Law Division regarding his appointment in the SECP as commissioner for a third term. The then Secretary Law gave a written opinion that the SECP Act 1997 is not clear regarding the appointment of commissioner/chairman for third consecutive term and Mr Hijazi could be appointed for the third term. The copy of this legal opinion is available with The News.
Despite completion of his tenure he did not leave his office and sent a summery to the office of the prime minister to secure the third term. He continued to serve for five months after the expiry of his term without pay. Thereafter the then Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz rejected his candidature due to the objection from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
It is pertinent to mention here that the SECP was formed under $500 million capital market development loan of the ADB. The ADB was of view that the appointment of a commissioner for the third term is against the essence of the law and would undermine the independence of the regulatory body. It will also pave way for the heads of other regulatory bodies to occupy the positions for an indefinite period. The rule of maximum two terms for commissioners/members is the same for CCP, PEMRA, NEPRA, OGRA etc.Sources in the finance ministry said that the old controversial legal opinion of a former secretary law is being cited to appoint Mr Hijazi as the chairman of the SECP.
When contacted, Zafar Hijazi confirmed that he got an opinion from the Law Division regarding the possibility of getting appointed for the third term as chairman SECP. “The Law division gave the opinion that the law is not clear on the number of terms for the appointment of the SECP commissioner, and a person could be appointed commissioner and chairman SECP for more than two terms”, said Hijazi. However, he refused to comment when asked if he will accept the responsibility if appointed chairman SECP by the government.
The SECP Act 1997 is very much clear about the tenure of SECP chairman and commissioners which states, “The Federal Government shall appoint one of the Commissioners to be the Chairman of the Commission, and no Commissioner shall be appointed Chairman for more than two consecutive terms”.
It is pertinent to mention here that in more than nine months the PML-N government has failed to appoint CEOs of over 28 state-run enterprises. All these institutions and departments are being run by the acting CEOs including SECP, PSM, PSO, OGDCL, SNGPL, SSGC, Pepco and many others.